May 2007

US Republican Debate: We obviously don’t get too much news on the 2008 election cycle here since the shake out of the main candidates has yet to occur–though they did cover the actual results of the mid-term elections quite a lot. A week or two ago (I forgot to blog about it then) I saw a debate between the Republican hopefuls on Fox. Maybe it’s because they’re from my part of the country, but I thought Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee came off pretty well. I like Paul’s view of the government, but from the little I’ve seen, he doesn’t get much air time.

UK: In the north east, the Labour (left) and Liberal Democrats (centre-left) took all the votes in the most recent local elections, and the Conservatives (aka Torries) didn’t take any. From what I hear it dates back to when Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) shut down the mining operations. Around here, the LD’s hold a majority in the city council and the L’s hold a majority in the county council. Our pastor said that the (mining) labour unions also had quite a connection with the Methodists over the last couple of centuries, such that the local union banners were hung inside the chapels. But that obviously has changed.

As a bit of history, the LD’s broke off from the Labour party b/c they thought it was becoming too left wing. In national elections, the LD seems to always run a distant 3rd. Labour has held the power for the past 12 years or so at least with Tony Blair as Prime Minister. Gordon Brown (Labour) has been tapped to replace Blair next month as PM.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had this irresistable urge to go buy a BBQ. The weather has been pretty good, and pan-fried burgers just don’t cut it. So I found one for a decent price at Argos when I was returning something to them (which by the way, they are one of the most customer friendly places I’ve found–UK or US–especially when it comes to returns). Anyhow, I brought it home late last week, and with stuff going on I wasn’t able to get it going until Monday for dinner. We grilled burgers (in US-speak–grilling in the UK is something you do in your oven, I think) and hot dogs, and my wife bought some potato salad and cole slaw to go with it. It was a right proper event–there’s nothing like grilled meat.
Afterwards, it hit me that my internal holiday clock must have been going off. Monday was a bank holiday here, but as far as I can tell it isn’t associated with any specific holiday–just a day off. Anyhow, I totally forgot about it being Memorial Day in the states. So just by instinct we had a good Memorial Day cookout. But with the weather hovering about 60, it was a little cooler than the 90+ weather back in TX. (We’ve had a cool stretch, but I’ve definitely adjusted to 60’s and low 70’s as comfortable.)

I preached this morning at Carrville Methodist Church here in Durham. As with Woody Allen, my opinion of this church is less because they let people like me preach there. 🙂 Actually, there is always a steady stream of different preachers here in the Methodist churches because all the churches, whether they have FT pastors or not, rotate preaching around the local circuit.

I’ve now preached on 3.5 continents–North America, Australia, Europe, and Central America (Belize)–not sure how that fits into the continent scheme. I went with the lectionary passage of Acts 2, and I think it went alright. I can say that the whole experience is much better than the ole’ preaching class days.

I went a few minutes longer than the manuscript version of my sermon was but hopefully not long enough to bore people. I talked with a guy afterwards and he mentioned that with my different accent he had to focus on what I was saying the whole time, which he said helped him to get more out of it. I did notice a little better eye contact with the crowd than some times in the states.

Health Insurance-Outside the UK (for those with UK NHS coverage)
With my trip to Germany coming up I needed to secure my health insurance while I was there. Since the countries in the European Union are increasingly working together to promote a free flow of movement between the countries, they have set up a system for people with health coverage in one country to be covered for trips to other countries. This also works because most, if not all, of the countries in Europe have socialized medicine, so it is a little easier to run this kind of cooperation.

In the UK you need to send off for the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). To be eligible you have to be ‘ordinarily resident’ and have an NHS number. You can sign up for the card online (if you are a British citizen–at least when I looked), through the mail (you can get the forms at a Post Office), or by phone. I sent off our forms a couple of months ago and haven’t heard anything back, so I thought I’d call and check on it. They took my info and said they had no records of my form. 😦 I thought, here we go again, another British Gas-esqe problem. It surely can’t be easy doing something with the government, especially with insurance. However, he took all my family’s information and said we were covered immediately and would get our coverage cards in just a few days.

Insurance visiting the UK (for those without normal UK NHS coverage)
We’ve had a couple of friends’ family members have to use the medical system here in the UK while they were coming to visit from the US. We were delighted to learn that those coming to visit were given medical help free of charge. I don’t know the stipulations (only covered if coming to visit a ‘resident’ or all visitors). I’m image they wouldn’t have gotten coverage for regular coverage, but these went to the hospital. Fortunately, nothing was life threatening or serious but they were seen promptly with hardly any paper work.

Travel Insurance
Selling travel insurance here is very popular, and they sell it everywhere. I suppose it isn’t as necessary in the US because your insurance there will cover you no matter what state you are in, and I think most credit cards have some automatic basic types of coverage. But since most significant travel here is outside of your own country even if it is in the EU (things are still not that standardized), it seems to be the thing to do. I believe it typically covers lost property, and stuff like that.

This year Durham instituted a 6 Month Review for all incoming PhD students.

Candidates for the PhD are required to produce

  • A review of literature or history of research or similar properly annotated and relevant to the research topic (at least 5,000 words long)
  • A thesis plan (~i.e., an outline) and indicative timetable for submission of work
  • I had written a couple summaries of writers on union with Christ, so John said to do a general summary of Paul’s participation/tranformation theology instead (plus John’s a big fan of doing primary source analysis first). I looked at issues of new status, agency, and transformation: dying/rising, glory/image, and others. My paper ended up being around 15,000 words. I also updated my outline according to my study and turned everything in.

    I had my meeting today with Loren and John, and it was very similar to those of other friends. I had to answer a few questions about my outline, methodology, and what I’m ‘not doing’. I thought it was a good experience to try to explain what I am doing in a holistic manner. But probably the more important part was just getting my two supervisors in one room. Since John has been very formative up to this point in my thinking, there wasn’t anything that I’d have to explain to him. But I haven’t met with Loren as much, so it was good to have both he and John in the same room so that all three of us are on the same page regarding the direction of the project.

    All in all, it was a relatively painless and an even encouraging process. It was nice to look back at the time since I’ve been here and to see that my project is taking on a more definite shape. I am also realizing how big the process will be. I’m not just doing a comparison of Paul and patristic views of theosis, because there isn’t enough positive consensus on the reality of union with Christ. So, I’ve first got to do some generative work on Paul and how union with Christ works for him. Then I’ll do the comparison piece. I’m having fun so far and look forward to what I eventually figure out.

    Here’s a quote that summarises his theology well. Against Heresies 3.18.7:

    Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which “reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death’s) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behoved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: “God, true are His works.” But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true.

    Landline number to British Gas: 0113 338 1499 — don’t pay for the 0845 calls.

    I had so hoped that my previous post about British Gas would have been my last. However, I have now reached the point of having made or received 20+ calls to them since September, and 6 calls in the last 2 days alone totalling 4 hrs. I tried to switch to a new provider, Scottish Power (who by the way I speak to without waiting and they have all my info correct), but until BG got their stuff straight, they wouldn’t let go of me.

    It turns out that when BG put me in their billing system, they screwed up just about everything that could be. Instead of one person id that covers both gas and electric, they made two. For electricity, instead of just billing me for my house, they also decided to also bill me for the house down the road. So I had 3 customer reference numbers and 2 id numbers associated with me. For whatever reason, no one there could figure out that that was wrong and how to fix it until I kept pushing on them.

    After 2+ hours on the phone yesterday, I got the electricity side finally wrapped up, I thought. But the person that I spoke to sent me off on a wild goose chase for information about my Gas line, which come to find out later when talking to another BG person she should have known in 1 minute of looking on her own. She supposedly gave me a direct number to get back to her, but I called the number 3 times (waited on hold a total of 45 minutes in the process) and no one there had ever heard of her or could connect me.

    So I call back again today, and still never got back to her. I got tranferred again. It seems that there was no name attached to my gas account, though they clearly knew my name from when they set up my direct debit on the bank. So I had to talk to someone to set up my gas account–put a name on it, so I could turn around and close it. When I got transferred to the house move department, I eventually ended up with the best person I’ve met at BG. He realized that the gas account I had was linked to the wrong gas meter (the house next to me), so BG was never my supplier in the first place! (Though they sent me bills from the time I moved in.) He cancelled account and refunded all my payments from day one. The irony is that 90% of my trouble has been b/c of the electricity account, but I went with BG for electricity since we supposedly already had BG for gas from the previous resident…

    So I think I may have ended up with £40 in discounts for all my trouble, but I would rather have never gone through the 20+ calls and 10+ hours on the phone. The rub is that you have to pay for all those calls, but I finally got a direct number for a local call so I could use my mobile minutes for it (0113 338 1499).

    I still think they have overbilled me for the electricity, and the basic person in their billing department could not explain to me how the amounts are computed. They don’t take monthly meter readings, so they base some of your bills off of estimated readings. The trouble comes from the fact that you are charged two different rates, and depending on when the estimate is taken you may pay more at the higher rate.

    Hopefully, I’ll never talk to them again. Don’t take this as a mark against the British. I have no doubt that if the first person I talked to at a US company had screwed up my record like this, I would have had the same issue. In fact I had a problem with Comcast before we left, and it was similar (but definitely not on the scale of BG).

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